Saturday, April 17, 2010

The legacy of the grown ups

I can still remember the stillness of the eucalypt and the coolnees of a winter breeze, the loneliness of riding deep into the bush on a Sunday's morning, whilst most were still fast asleep. Only the clip...clop...echoed. It's amazing I remember any of this really as not long after this I was crushed under 1400 of equine flesh leaving a permanent white splatter like image across my brain, cracking the skull-cap protecting my brain against the asphalt, scary for those who don't know what they are looking at, uniquely interesting and pretty for others, for me its knowing that there will be somethings I can never remember, lost forever up until that day. I didn't find this out until years down the track when MRI was more widely used....bit of a fright at first for a parent of a child who has died from a tumour to see lots of little white dots across their brain ! I thank everyday not just for memory, for sensory development, the greatest of all human wonders. Our senses link us to our past, our moments of joy, of pain, of discovery, of learning. Our senses reconnect us, are the motherboards of our hardrives, they help us remember.

I continued to ride when my body repaired and the scars healed.. lost my nerve a little, in addition to my favourite jeans and singlet top (complete with glittered horse picture on front)...yes a singlet wonder 25 years later and I still have a few physical scars!.. Yet never my passion for nature, animals and my greater interconnectedness to all living things. I managed to get back in the saddle again two years down the track in Sydney and the United Kingdom a short while later; when I smell leather it reminds me of boots, saddles and adjusting stirrups and fresh lucerne brings me back to when life was simple and solitary. I have been so blessed with the right mix of risk and safety, of nature and learning. Even the scars, each a lesson. Despite the long term impact, this was my journey and I own it.

I was reminded of this experience as I completed an article this week on early childhood education for sustainability, of our senses and our legacy of devolving sensory development from the ignorance and lack of active participation in nature and learning for our own children, the very real potential of a generation of children with biophobia.

There is a great deal of gloom and doom, we do not need the 'State of the World'reports to remind us, the media does well enoug...however, when our very own Commissioner for Sustainability and Environment states Victorian's consumption is at such a rate, with the current climate change predictions, this lifestyle of obsessive consumption, brought on by affluenza will not be sustainable into the near future for our children. Even predictions Victoria has a 'bio-diversity crises' on their hands has fallen on many deaf ears across the State, with anti-climate change advocates breeding in their small corners of the regions, claiming any endeavour to ensure education for sustainability is included in all curriculums from early childhood through to tertiary education, is a sign policy has become a cult-like practice and to 'leave children alone' 'let them be children' with the fear any such responsible action fostering empathy in early learning for all living things, is an attempt by the current Federal government to remove their responsibility and indoctrinate children into becoming 'greenies'.

In the past few weeks during the early hours of each morning, tap tap tapping away at the keyboard, I have been overloaded by...... (not the predicted damage should we not change our self-centred wasteful consumption ways) and saddened by the visual image, the little white spots, the scar tissue already revealing itself of the thousands of acres lost to genetically produced seed farming, the acceptance (if not compulsory use) of synthetic turf across children's services, as if the lessons from treated pine wasn't enough, using a surface invented by the same company responsible for environmental disasters and owning of 85% of genetically modified seeds, learning how utterly stupid is the supposedly most intelligent species on the planet to allow a small group of remaining intelligent dedicated and humane people to battle against mobile phone manufactures to heed their pleas to reduce the mining of coltan in order to save what is remaining of near extinct mountain gorillas.

So widespread is the ignorance and apathy, right on our very doorsteps despite the travel brochure attempt in disguise as the learning framework (since many services tossed it aside for reading later) highlighting the vital need for nature in learning to ensure a reduction in negative brain development and poor health outcomes for children, somehow following its release across the State in May 2009, a few months later approval was given for a 120 place local service which opened, where the only pieces (and I mean pieces) of grass and rip rip wood chip is for the 11 hour a week Kinder program at the publicly visual end of the building. So for the other 4 rooms of toddlers, infants and "baby sat" 4-5 years olds, (as we all know in Gippsland childcare is "babysitting" and Kinder is "education" :) they will have to be happy with egg cartons with cotton wool, water and wheat seeds, hands, feet on the very surface which holds more chemicals than the treated pine...oooh buts its soft when you fall ! Did anyone ever read the many studies to look at injury rates or was it more about good marketing windfalls ? I wonder what patterns of memory will be stored as the synaptic responses gear up for the wonders of plastics and synthetics which burn like hell when you slide on them! As for smell...mmm have you ever put your nose up against the heated up play equipment in summer ?

Though speaking of marketing and wind, I hear LOHS consumers are on the rise, Lifestyle of the Health and Sustainbility aware, or would it be those who have evolved with a conscience? If the birds of the Galapagos sharpened their beaks to adapt to environmental conditions, what was it that motivated humanity to adapt to fitting more in their wallets than their brain ? Smaller hearts over bigger cars and houses ? or thinking more about winning money, than giving what they have to help those who have none!

Going, going gone....goes the fall of the auctioneers hammer, down on the State. Victoria the smallest state in the country and certainly not alone in its degradation of flora and fauna across the nation, yet the smallest state with the largest land clearing and population density - we can't afford to grow or consume more....its change or bust !

So for the skeptics, let's say if you are right, and the world is not heading towards a nasty downfall, with catastrophic effects, what have we to loose by tightening the belt, less spending, more recycling, less consumption, turning off the lights and just get rid of plastic bags altogether (at least if anything the marine life will be happier !). I mean how many mobiles can one person have ? how easy is it to recycle rather than increase the massive land fill which continues to weigh down this gorgeous country like an anchor to the center of the earth?. The scars tell a story of ignorance and apathy, culturally we have lost hundreds of indigenous languages and have a long way to go to balance the health, education and opportunities available equally to Australian Aboriginal families across this country and for Gippslanders alone, the return of the rivers to green and blue is a miracle if we consider the blood shed on this region throughout history and the melting mix of sulphur, carbon monoxide, nitrate dioxide, formaldehyde, toluene, xylene and benzene's into the your partner or friend did not 'drop one' that's the eau du toilette of the Valley, with its double the State average of hospital admissions for respiratory conditions to accident and emergency each year.

There is a lot here to be fighting for, to be standing up, speaking out and not going down without a battle for. We are human, we make mistakes, acknowledging them is the first step to change. Have you ever seen the view from the top of Baw Baw? both in teeth chattering winter rugged up in your snow gear and in spring sipping a tea from the deck with a view across the region? Then there are the people. So many northerners commented to me "why would you go to the valley its like the deep south of the country"....yet you have to come here to see why. There is an honesty and realness about the lack of humility in this region, what you see is what you get. Peel back the layers, these are friends, family, this is our interconnectedness, it is what makes us who we are, we can't run from every man-made disaster, we must stand up and own it, then go forward. When we know better...we can and must do better.

This week I found myself linking back in with organisations and people I have lost contact with for nearly 13 years. Friends who shared in my anguish and frustration of the biggest battle of our lives, cancer. There are times I would prefer to remember swimming with horses in the river and camping out bush, moving the memory loss bar a little, rather than the second by second memory of saying to my husband "if the doctor sits down at the side of the bed to talk, its good, if he says lets go into another room, not so good" and then the doctor entered and minutes later we were finding out our 16 month old blonde curly blue eyed boy had a tumour in the middle of his brain 'tiger country' they called it. From that day on I can't smell hospital hand cleaning products without instantly being in that room, in a treatment room, hooking up to chemo, blood transfusions and saying goodbye.

The Children's Health and Environmental Coalition has evolved to something greater and thank goodness their voices are being heard. It never leaves your mind when you join a study to look at environmental pollutants, household products and their impact on child health and development, when you are asked if you use particular cleaning products, washing, gardening and emr generating products and wonder where there is smoke there is fire. It was many years before I purchased a microwave again, owned a mobile or used products with chemicals....slowly they crept back in and I weakened. So here I am again, throwing out the trash, recycling what I can and clearing out the emotions and stupidity of letting the ignorance in.

How much do we still not know, not because we don't have the knowledge or resources, because we can't know. A conspiracy theorist just like my Dad...I know....yet how many jobs would be lost by the cure of so many diseases? The World Health Organisation (WHO) reports 40% of the disease burden in the world is attributed to environmental causes...40 % - this is preventable for goodness sake!! Millions of children die every single year to environmental pollutants and disease attributed to environmental causes. How much money (the mind boggles) is tied up with the drugs, resource manufacturing to do with treating these diseases? How can we possibly be regarded as the smartest species on the planet when we create lifestyles to kill off our very own species and eradicate others from the face of the earth?

This isn't going to cost you anything to make a change, if anything it can save you a fortune, do you know how much it costs you to heat a home, yet if you just had an environmental audit, followed through on the recommendations or put sealing around windows/doors, you could save a fortune in $$$ let alone the impact on the environment.

Where to start. Go around your house now and turn off the lights....for goodness sake if it is daytime...turn off the lights, open the shades and ventilate/illuminate naturally.Stop buying. Yes stop it. You already have enough sheets, towels and clothes. Each year millions of tons of recycled items filter through the charity stores, not to mention the business boom on online sales of pre-used items, vintage is in, get with the program. If you have to buy, buy it local. Those big juice bright perfect tomatoes, they may look great, like a hollywood body filled with plastic and saline, yet they are not real tomatoes. Put in a vege garden, don't forget the environmental pollutants so think carefully and think organic, get a compost, worm farm, let nature do its business. Walk more, car pool, take public transport if you have to. All those magazines, old stamps, cardboard boxes, egg cartons, any of it - ask your local school or Kinder and recycle. For goodness sake above all advocate for children to feel the grass between their toes, to find wonder and amazement from seeds, sticks and leaves falling from trees, collecting eggs from real chickens, if you are unsure take a look at the eco centres out there creating healthy environments for children. The results are in, a child's active participation in natural environments develops empathy and compassion, respect for self, respect for others, respect for the natural environment. We don't need more studies to tell us children today are less resilient, less respectful and the loss of empathy as a value is on its way out, we need to open the doors, rain hail or shine and let the children out. Let them touch, feel and smell there way. Green, brown the new pink (although I like pink...its still in !).

'If you are thinking a year ahead
plant a seed
If you are thinking ten years ahead
plant a tree
If you are thinking a hundred years ahead
educate people'.
Kuan Tzu 500 BC Chinese Poet

Margaret McMillan 200 years ago as a Scottish advocate for children commenced the creche movement in the United Kingdom to reduce the amount of children being used in mines, what today would be Primary school. A leader way ahead of her time, advocating for the importance of sensory development, the need for natural environments to stimulate children's learning, to provide better health outcomes for children at a time when children's rights were a dirty word. 200 years and we are still battling on, despite the science on sensory development; attachment, trauma, behaviour and a child's need for a symbiotic relationship with the natural environment. Still fighting the economy against health battle. It won't cost you your job for goodness sake to give your child a better chance to develop into a healthy, compassionate human being. You can make changes in your own home, simple changes which require informed choices. Have you ever noticed how much packaging goes into some products? Or how many products do the same thing? Strangely when the fingers are pointed many look at our parents generation, yet life was a great deal simpler and less packaged back then, having a piece of fruit and a sandwich was enough to take for school, obesity is a common word today, nearly accepted, even a woman in the US is making money from eating herself to death online (gross is an understatement. With more products, more spending, more conveniences, we expel less energy, is it no wonder obesity is a common word?

For me the how is motivated everyday by the why.....Maybe you have one, maybe you don't, maybe you could share mine ? its remembering the promise I made many years ago, as I held the tiny cold hand of a 3 years and 4 months of age little boy, frail and worn out from trial chemotherapy, radiation and pain relief, he smiled through it all and never gave up. I held Ben's hand and told him he had fought hard enough and it was ok to let go. I said thank you for showing me the way, thank you for giving me the chance to learn a different way of knowing and thank you for blessing us all with your presence. I told him children deserved more from the grown-ups, the legacy we leave is not good enough. Too many genetically modified foods, additives and chemically produced environments. The legacy of the degradation of natural wonders, the extinction of flora and fauna, the legacy of thousands of children dying of cancer every singe year. I told him I would do better that this was not good enough and his message was heard, I will never forget and I said goodbye.

All that is put on our gravestones when we are gone are the dates we enter and the date we leave, just a simple dash in between. We take with us our scars, we leave behind our memories. No-one puts how much money you earned, whether you won the tattslotto, how many houses you had or cars you drove, its just a simple dash.

We all have a chance here to create a legacy of hope, of endurance, of compassion and commitment to serve others, to do better, to define integrity (unlike a psychologist I know from a training day last year who wasn't sure what it meant...mmmm), to be honest, capable and above all own this journey we are on together.

This week in Melbourne is the Conference for Healthy Parks Healthy People, professionals from around the globe speaking loud about the importance of preserving parks for the wellbeing of humanity. I finished my article and I'm off to the forum in Melbourne later this week, the book is coming along and I've taken some advice and working on a feasibility study for an eco service in the Latrobe Valley, the evidence is compelling.

If you have heard a word of this, if it has touched you, sparked a memory, stored from a sensory experience as a child laying on your back under a tree watching the leaves flap in the breeze, join me as a member of the Jane Goodall Institute and start a group in your community to "be the change"....' never doubt that a small group of people can change the world indeed its the only thing that ever has'....M. Mead....

Mountain Gorilla recycle your phone campaign

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